Poker Strategy With Kevin Haney: Deuce-To-Seven Triple Draw Lowball ‘Flop’ Fundamentals

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In Deuce-To-Seven Triple Draw Lowball (27TD), the betting round after the first draw is at the smaller limit and is often referred to as the “flop.”

For example, in a $20-$40 limit game, bets and raises after the first draw are in $20 increments. After the second draw, the betting limit increases to $40 and this street is called the “turn.” As one would guess, the last betting round after the third and final draw is referred to as the “river.” These borrowed terms from flop games simply roll off the tongue much easier and are very useful when describing the play of a hand after the fact.

For the most part, flop play in 27TD is relatively straightforward, especially in heads-up pots. Unlike hold’em, we should not play according to a ‘check-to-the-raiser mentality.’ If one player is drawing fewer cards than their opponent on the first draw, they have the lead and should almost always bet the flop regardless if they improved or not.

If we are pat and another player is drawing any number of cards, we have an automatic bet. Similarly, if we are drawing one (D1) and our opponent is either drawing two (D2) or three (D3) we also have an automatic bet regardless of the outcome of our first draw.

The only possible exception to automatically betting the flop when we were ahead in the draws is when we were a D2 and our opponent was a D3. In this situation, checking is the correct play if we started out with a mediocre or steal holding and failed to improve on the draw.

For example, suppose we open from the button with 3-7-8 (without any blocking pairs) and the big blind calls and takes three. If we do not improve, betting would be wrong against a player who most likely has a deuce and is a favorite to improve when drawing three. Betting won’t help us win the pot and more than likely we are simply betting the villain’s hand for him.

However, if we had instead opened the button with a premium D2 such as 2-3-7 we can make a thin value bet unimproved against a single D3, especially if we have paired along the way. These low blockers add value to your hand mostly because they may be cards your opponent needs to improve. We should also bet if we have a bad hand that we intend to turn into a pat bluff (snow), such as when we start with 3-7-8 and catch something like trip threes on the first draw.

When two players are drawing two cards on the first draw, whoever improves should tend to bet. What would we generally consider to be improvement? Usually it means improving to a one-card draw to an eight low or better, however, in some situations a draw to a nine is also valuable enough to keep. (Nine draws are a tricky topic and will be the topic of an entire article in the near future.)

If we are out-of-position with both us and our opponent drawing two on the first draw, there are few situations where we shouldn’t automatically lead out after having improved. For example, if we are fortunate enough to go from drawing two to a pat hand, it’s often best to go for a check-raise.

Another situation where we can check is when we improve to a weak draw and were initially up against a strong starting D2 range. For example, suppose we defend the big blind against an early position open, both players draw two, and we improve to a very marginal draw such as a 3-6-7-8. If our opponent improved upon his D2, his resulting D1 or pat holding will tend to be very strong and we will often get raised having much the worst of it. However, the downside to checking is that we potentially expose our draw to be quite weak and/or give our opponent a free street when did not improve and decides to check behind.

In a heads-up pot, no matter what happened on the draws we are almost always going to at least call the flop because we usually only require around 15 percent equity to continue. There are other factors to consider such as reverse implied odds and the frequency at which you will realize your equity, however, the vast majority of the time you need to continue as there will be enough overlay.

For example, suppose you open the button with 3-4-6 (10-Q), get called by the big blind, and you both draw two. Your opponent leads out, indicating he improved, and you received no help on the first draw. This is not a great situation, but we should not fold as our equity is approximately 30 percent against a D1 range so there is adequate overlay and we do have position.

However, now let’s assume we have the same 3-4-6 (10-Q) hand, but instead we get re-raised by the small blind who is a D1 on the first draw. Once the small blind makes the automatic flop bet we are getting 8:1, meaning we only require around 11 percent equity to profitably continue. However, if we catch an ace and a king on the first draw our best play may be to fold even though we are getting greater pot odds than in the prior example.

While we are getting a better price, our equity is much less against an opponent that is either drawing one or is now pat as opposed to a D2 that leads out and most likely is just a D1. Against this stronger range we may only have around 20 percent equity as the high cards we have caught make it more likely our opponent is pat. In addition, our draw is very weak with reverse implied odds and we will often have to fold the turn, thus relinquishing our equity.

Situations such as this do not come up that often so we are going to at least call the flop around 95 percent of the time or more. Another situation where a flop fold is probably best is when we were drawing three, we do not improve, and our opponent was pat on the first draw.

Now let’s consider a situation where two players were both drawing two on the first draw and the first player to act leads out on the flop, representing improvement. If the second player also improved should he consider putting in a raise?

Certainly, with a pat hand he should, but he can also raise with a premium D1 to a seven low (i.e. not a straight draw) and perhaps also with a smooth eight when he has seen several blockers along the way. There is value in this raise especially if an opponent tends to check-raise his pat hands meaning when he leads out he most often has a D1. In a battle of one-card draws the superior draw is a solid equity favorite and having the positional advantage makes the raise even more fundamentally sound.

While it’s true that raising here will make our calling range weaker, we can make still make the nuts with hands that have would have called the flop (e.g. 2-3-4-5 and 3-4-5-7) and overall it’s not easy for our opponent to use this information to any great advantage. Simply calling is usually fine, but it would probably be a mistake to do so against a player who had defended the big blind and may be leading out with one-card draws such as 3-6-7-8 or 9-8-7-4. In 27TD, as in any limit game it’s important to press any advantage that you may have.

It’s important to realize that this raise is only correct because our opponent was initially drawing two, so the majority of the time he leads he’s not yet pat. A somewhat common beginner mistake is raising when improving to a strong draw such as 2-4-5-7 versus an opponent who was initially a D1. This raise is incorrect because we don’t know the result of our opponent’s initial one-card draw and we are a big underdog (approximately 30 percent equity) against a range of eight or better made lows.

While we may have slightly greater than 50 percent equity over our opponent’s pat and D1 range, a raise will often be a money loser as it re-opens the betting and allows him to re-raise when he is pat. When we raise the flop we are doing so as either a small favorite or a sizeable underdog in addition to divulging the strength of our draw and this is not good.

It is very rare that an opponent will fold the flop thus we should only tend to bet and raise when we feel we have an overall range advantage over our opponent. Multi-way pots present other issues to consider and these will be discussed in the next issue. ♠

Kevin Haney is a former actuary of MetLife but left the corporate job to focus on his passions for poker and fitness. He is co-owner of Elite Fitness Club in Oceanport, NJ and is a certified personal trainer. With regards to poker he got his start way back in 2003 and particularly enjoys taking new players interested in mixed games under his wing and quickly making them proficient in all variants. His new mixed-games website Counting Outs is a great starting resource for a plethora of games ranging from the traditional to the exotic. He can be reached at [email protected]

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